Crisis Government; Excess Deaths in England; Christina Berndt’s Eleven Ideas
To reduce energy consumption in the face of the looming German gas crisis, Economics Minister Robert Habeck has proposed a bizarre set of indoor temperature ordinances that continue the pattern of direct state interventions in everyday life first established by mass containment.
Workspaces where hard physical labour is performed are not to be heated above 12 C, under the new rules. Those involving moderate labour while standing will have their temperatures capped at 16 C, and moderate labour while sitting at 17 C. Places where light labour is performed standing, will be permitted temperatures as high as 18 C, while white-collar office spaces where everybody sits and types will be permitted nothing warmer than 19 C. The heating of hallways and other common spaces will be outlawed, as will certain kinds of restroom water heaters. There will be a general ban on using electricity or gas to heat private pools, and shops will be ordered to keep external doors closed at all times. Political pressure is growing for similar ordinances limiting gas consumption in residences.
While some doubt that these rules can be enforced, German police have already proven effective at enforcing pandemic-era contact limits in private homes. And even if indoor temperatures are never systematically checked by authorities, I’m pretty sure that the simple prospect of unannounced inspections and fines will be enough for most employers to declare a third season of home office, with the added prospect of offloading higher gas prices onto their employees.
It is most curious, how this totally new catastrophe should call forth some of very same measures demanded by the Corona pandemic. Not only will home office return, but municipal pools will close again and cities will be kept dark at night, a de facto limitation on evening mobility that might well encourage some places to reimpose the curfews last seen in the winter of 2020/21. Meanwhile, some of the very same spaces recently commandeered for excess hospital capacity and mass vaccination will be repurposed as heated shelters for the old, the sick and the poor.
Not any unified plan, but rather a long series of contingencies, have caused the German gas crisis. Yet the steadfast refusal of the Scholz government to consider any course of action that might ameliorate the shortage, always with a new excuse, grows every day more unsettling.
There’s the obvious explanation, that the Greens in government are merely taking advantage of this opportunity to achieve their higher goal of restricting fossil fuel consumption, as they’ve always wished. But I think there might be another, deeper way to understand this too. I suggest that we’re seeing here the emergence of a new political style, which you might call Crisis Governance—or, as a friend put it, “the continuation of Corona policy by other means.” One of my core themes here has been the deepening demobilisation of western states, as power is diffused downwards from the political apex into the bureaucratic institutions, the press and major corporate enterprises. The great advantage of this power-sharing is a near-total uniformity of political views that it has inspired across the socio-cultural elite, but it comes at the cost of initiative, coordination and strategy. Crises seem to be one of the only ways our new, demobilised states can overcome their paralysis and act to further any kind of positive political programme.
I want to cut against the grain a bit, and suggest that that Telegraph article blaming excess UK mortality on lockdowns is more than just an attempt to exonerate the vaccines. Of course the vaccinators will blame lockdowns for their own failures, if it comes to that, but their duplicity shouldn’t distract us from the profound disarray lockdowns have inflicted upon all levels of society, and healthcare in particular.
Even before Corona, the NHS faced serious administrative problems and an inability to meet demand in many areas. Two years of near-exclusive focus on a solitary viral pathogen have cast the entire system into new depths of chaos: The hospital waiting list in England alone includes 6.5 million names, and various regions have seen dying patients waiting hours in ambulances before they can be treated by hospital staff. The great irony is that lockdowns were sold as a means of keeping our healthcare systems from melting down, whereas in fact they simply brought about the very healthcare shortages and delays they were supposed to prevent. This will be a slow burn now, for it will take years to clear the treatment backlog, if they ever manage it.
That said: Mortality trends are complex and multi-causal, and there’s clearly a role for the vaccines here too. Note in particular the mid-2021 timing of the mortality increase:
My own crude, spot comparison of the age-stratified data suggests that excess deaths have risen proportionally across all age brackets above 15.
Last week, horrifying schoolmarm and villain-of-the-blog Christina Berndt co-authored a very strange item in the Süddeutsche Zeitung, under the headline Getting Through the Pandemic Pragmatically: Eleven Ideas That Could Prepare Germany For the Coming Corona Waves.
The piece is festooned with bizarre garbage graphics …
… and presents an incoherent gaggle of suggestions that speak volumes about where Camp Containment finds itself at this late hour.
Berndt and co. want better wastewater surveillance, they want more group therapy options, they want school attendance exemptions for at-risk children and for children with at-risk parents, they want more educational videos for all those kids stuck at home, they want more Paxlovid, they want more flu vaccines especially for children, they want more home office, they want more antigen testing, and they want “masks for all.” Oh yes, and in the midst of this bewildering nonsense, they remember to ask Santa for more nursing staff.
I was going to write a longer piece on this laughable potpourri of demands that lead nowhere, but honestly, who cares. It’s so boring I can’t even bring myself to translate the stupidest bits. This is the picture of a political and social movement in advanced decay, whose members no longer aspire to eradicate SARS-2 or realise a post-virus utopia, but now hope merely for more faecal virus surveys, more pharmaceutical snake oil, and more hiding alone at home, all amid a growing awareness of their own mental illness. It’s merely interesting to see what staying power the anxiety over children as a vector of disease and contamination has had among this set. School closures and other measures targeting youth have been the achilles heel of mass containment, the seed of its political demise, and yet the most ardent supporters of masking, testing and closing forever simply can’t give it up. In a very big way that I still don’t fully understand, lockdowns were a measure directed, sometimes even with malice, specifically at the young.
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